I’m not sure if it’s global warming, climate change or something else, but recent predictions suggest that farmers on the Left Coast may be in the early stages of either a 10-year (highly likely) or 30-year (50-50 chance they say) mega-drought. Southern California and areas east of there will be most affected; this means mostly metro areas in California but some key dairy farming areas in New Mexico and Arizona. But even where the drought isn’t the worst, it appears that the severity and duration of the drought will result in long-term, maybe even permanent changes in agriculture. Less corn, a lot less alfalfa, and more nut orchards since nuts need a fraction of the water as do forage crops.
The SW drought may result in the exodus of dairies in the affected regions–some to move to other areas including the Dakotas, but perhaps we’ll simply wind up with fewer dairy cows. Short-term this wouldn’t be a problem since there’s plenty of supply to meet demand. Long-term it’s tough to tell because of the push-pull of two trends: U.S. population will continue to increase which normally would be positive for demand. but much of the population growth will be in the Hispanic population, and a significant portion of Hispanics are lactose-intolerant. This would suggest that per capita consumption of dairy products–not one of the brighter spots in dairy statistics–may continue to be a problem area.